Lesson Plans

Blended Photography for ELA, History, Spanish, and ELL Classrooms

Students from R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC present double-exposure portraits that they designed in their photography classes to visually communicate parts of their identities. The students created their portraits after participating in a hands-on photography workshop with Pulitzer Center grantee Daniella Zalcman, who uses double-exposure photography in her reporting. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2018.


Students will be able to blend two images using a free cell phone app in order to communicate their understanding of diverse content.

Introducing Daniella Zalcman’s “Signs of Your Identity”

1, Observe the image below and respond to the following questions:

  • What do you see?
  • What feeling is expressed by the image? What do you see in the image that expresses that feeling?
  • What story do you think the photographer is trying to communicate?

VALERIE EWENIN, Muskowekwan Indian Residential School, 1965-1971. “I was brought up believing in the nature ways, burning sweetgrass, speaking Cree. And then I went to residential school and all that was taken away from me. And then later on, I forgot it, too, and that was even worse.” Image by Daniella Zalcman. Canada, 2016.

This image was composed by photojournalist Daniella Zalcman as part of the project “Signs of Your Identity.” Zalcman’s project explores the lasting impacts of government-mandated residential school systems for indigenous children in Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

Usually church-run, the boarding schools were meant to forcibly assimilate indigenous children into Western culture. The last residential school in Canada didn't close until 1996. The U.S. government still operates 59 Indian Boarding Schools today.

2. Read the caption that accompanies the photo above and consider: Why has Zalcman chosen to represent her reporting with this image?

3. Read this interview with Zalcman from BuzzFeed and view this film of Zalcman speaking in DC classrooms to check your answer and explore images from “Signs of Your Identity."

4. Discuss the following:

  • How does Zalcman pair captions and images to communicate her reporting?
  • What is the impact of using double-exposure photography to share the story of indigenous people who have survived the residential school system?

Extension Activities:

Daniella Zalman used free apps like Diana, and low-cost apps like Image Blender, to create her double-exposure photos. The same effect can be created using Adobe Photoshop or by using the image transfer technique with printed images.

ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS: Visualizing Character Traits
Developed by Stephen Langford,  educator at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC

1. Choose two photos that represent two aspects of the character from your independent reading book. It’s best if these photos are your original pictures. Try to think about photos that show something about the external life of your character and the internal life of your character.

2. Using the Diana Photo Free app, blend these two pictures to create a new image. Play with the filters and lighting to try to reflect the emotions that your character feels.

3. Write an “artist’s statement” in 4-5 sentences that explains why you chose the photos you did and how any changes you made in the editing process reflect aspects of your character. In your statement, include at least one quote from your book that supports the images that you have chosen. Be sure to include the title of the book in your statement in some place.

Here is an example that Reynolds High School student Elizabeth S. used when describing Scout from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird”:

The pictures I chose to blend for my character were of a firework and one of a flower. I think this works really well for my character Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird. I think this because a lot of people like Aunt Alexandra want her to be a proper lady when she just wants to be allowed to be herself. “Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches….” (Lee 108). Image and text by R.J. Reynolds High School student Elizabeth Schum. United States, 2018.

ENGLISH/LANGUAGE ARTS: Evaluating Bias with Double-Exposure Portraits
Developed by Mary Muse, educator at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC

1. Write a short reflection that responds to the following questions:

  • Consider your identity. How does it shape your point-of-view? How is your perspective different from someone with a different cultural background? Family structure? Life experience?
  • We all have biases, positive and negative. What are yours? What messages will you be more sympathetic or positive towards? What messages might you be more closed-minded or negative towards? How do your biases shape the messages you create and send out into the world? How do your biases shape your reception of other messages? How can you be a more objective audience?

2. Create a double-exposure portrait that visualizes what you discovered about your identity and personal biases by creating a double-exposure image that blends a self portrait with a secondary image that represents an aspect of your identity, point-of-view, or personal bias.

  • Take multiple self portraits and select one image that best represents your unique identity.
  • Take multiple photos of objects/landscapes/moments that are inspired by aspects of your identity, point of view, or personal bias.
  • Use ImageBlender or Diana app (Diana has a free version) to blend your selected portrait and secondary image.
  • Write a brief caption that explains how identity or point-of-view shape bias as speaker and audience.

HISTORY: Blending the Past and Present
Developed by the Pulitzer Center Education Team

1. Students use Diana or ImageBlender apps to blend two images that represent the following:

  • A primary source image from a significant event in history
  • An original image that represents that historical event's present-day ramifications

2. Students should write a caption explaining the connection between their selected images and how the historical event they are examining impacts contemporary life.

SPANISH 3: Discussing Immigration Facts and Myths
Developed by Lundon Sims, educator at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC

1. Students brainstorm what they think is necessary for a person to immigrate to the United States, and then review the 2014 Telemundo article, “Diez mitos sobre la inmigración en Estados Unidos” to evaluate their responses. Students identify and review Spanish commands while reading the article. Students summarize the article by creating a list of commands representing truths about what a person must do to immigrate to the U.S., and a list of commands that represent myths about immigration to the U.S.

2. Students will then use the app DianaPhoto and blend two photos (double exposure) that reflect both of the following:

  • Truths about their own families’ immigration experiences
  • An image combating myths about immigration to the U.S.

Students can choose any images they like. They will then describe their family history and their personal experiences in Spanish. Students will be encouraged to also present their work to the class.

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS: Visualizing First-Generation Identity
Developed by Seth Beale, educator at R.J. Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem, NC

Students who have recently immigrated to the United States blend an image representing their lives in the United States with an image representing their lives in the countries where they were born in order to explore how their identities have been influenced by both countries. Students write short reflections and/or poems to accompany their images that explore some of the following questions:

  • What words would you use to describe yourself?
  • How would you describe yourself and your life in the country where you were born?
  • How would you describe yourself and your life in the United States?
  • How do the images you have blended describe your identity now?

Below are examples created by Beale’s students in spring 2018:

Image and text by R.J. Reynolds High School student Israel Santos. United States, 2018.

Image taken in the hallway at R.J. Reynolds High School of blended images created by studetns in Seth Beale's class for English language learners. Image by Fareed Mostoufi. United States, 2018.

Educator Notes: 

The extension activities outlined in this lesson were developed by educators at R.J. Reynolds High School in spring 2018 after their students connected with grantee Daniella Zalcman. As part of Pulitzer Center's NewsArts initiative in Winston-Salem, NC, Reynolds students have spent nearly two years connecting their students to Pulitzer Center reporting and grantees in order to develop initiatives that guide students' exploration of the world through engagement with news and diverse artistic media. Zalcman's visit was supported by a grant from The Winston-Salem Foundation.

Lesson Builder Survey